Geithner and Summers, From the Baseline

by Noam Scheiber | October 13, 2009

Just wanted to engage in a little crass self-promotion for those who come directly to The Stash, or who took the Internet off for Columbus Day: I have a piece in our current issue about the tennis-playing habits of the Obama economic team--Larry Summers, Tim Geithner, and Gene Sperling, et al--which, I half-seriously suggest, can be understood as a metaphor for their West Wing interactions. It turns out most of the group has attended tennis camp together for the last several years:

Not long after leaving office in 2001, Summers and a Treasury colleague named Lee Sachs spent a long weekend refining their strokes at [Nick] Bollettieri’s world-famous tennis academy in Florida. (Among the illustrious alumni: Andre Agassi, Boris Becker, and Anna Kournikova.) ... The trip soon became an annual ritual, with Geithner, Sperling, and several other former colleagues joining in. Each March, the wonks-in-exile would present themselves to the Bollettieri instructors for two days of extensive drilling. In one particularly taxing exercise, the campers would hit a forehand approach, then charge the net to take two volleys before sprinting back to the baseline--one after the other in a whir of circular motion. Imagine the Waltz of the Flowers from The Nutcracker; then imagine that the dancers are middle-aged men of roughly average dexterity, and you have the idea.

Well, most of the idea. "Those guys are very, very competitive. Put that in there. Holy shit," says Bollettieri. "There’s no friendship on the friggin’ court. They want to beat the shit out of everybody." And how do they stack up? "Sperling is better than any of us," Summers says. "I was probably second-best at hitting the ball, but I don’t move as well--I’m not as fast. So I would say Geithner or I were probably second-best."

Also, Felix Salmon reminds me that I should point you this piece, co-written by my former colleague Ben Wasserstein. It's an "oral history" of a doubles match Ben and two classmates played with Summers when they were Harvard undergrads. Highly entertaining.

Source URL: http://www.newrepublic.com//blog/the-stash/geithner-and-summers-the-baseline